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Asia-Pacific

France to withdraw drones from Afghanistan

media The Afghanya valley with the mountains of Kapisa in the background Olivier Fourt/RFI

France is to withdraw its two Harfang drones from Afghanistan as part of the reduction of its forces leading to total withdrawal by the end of 2013. By the end of March 600 soldiers will have been brought home, according to the defence ministry.

About 40 soldiers responsible for operating the drones will leave with them, the ministry announced Thursday.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

That will mark the start of the third phase of the withdrawal, which began at the end of October last year.

At the end of March 3,400 French troops will be left in Afghanistan.

In January, after the killing of four French troops by an Afghan soldier, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that the French military will leave the country by the end of 2013, a year earlier than previously planned.

Three Harfang drones were deployed at the Bagram airfield, near Kabul, in February 2009 and one has already been pulled out.

They are unarmed and serve to guide troops on the ground and observe insurgents’ activities.

According to the defence ministry:

  • In the last three years they have made 660 sorties, flown for 5,000 hours and “dealt with” 5,200 targets;
  • 40 per cent of their missions were for French forces in Kapisa and Surobi provinces;
  • 50 per cent of their missions were for US and Polish troops.

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